Open Handed Playing

So I am a self taught player, and pretty much just picked up open handed playing just because it felt natural to me. Can anyone explain to me the benefits/problems with playing this way? Appreciate it. This community is awesome so far.

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
You don’t accidentally click your sticks together playing open-handed while you’re doing a backbeat. It’s also easier to go from one-handed hi-hat work to two-handed very quickly when you play open-handed.

Advantages of closed-handed are that your right hand can easily jump over to the toms for fills while your left hand stays on the snare. Also, your body has to twist away from the toms a little to play open-handed. Closed-handed doesn’t have that problem.
So it sounds to me like there's benefits to both. With that being said, I have heard that most drum instructors will prefer closed handed method. Just thought that was weird.


Platinum Member
There's no such thing as "closed handed" drumming, or "cross" handed drumming or whatever people call it-- that's just regular old right handed drumming where your right hand generally leads, and plays the ride rhythm. It happens that the hihat is usually on the left, so you have to cross over to ride on that.

I wrote an explanation of some of the issues involved with the open handed thing.


Gold Member
If you master the technique, you’ll be in with an elite group.

AFAIK, it all started when Lenny White, a lefty playing a right-handed setup, moved his ride cymbal to his left side. Then riding on the hats with his left hand came next.

Billy Cobham saw Lenny perform and realized its functionality (hands don’t cross over) and retrained in that method.

Simon Phillips saw Cobham and copied him. Simon also did it to lower his hats so his toms would look good/even.

Edit: Carter Beauford is another player who plays open-handed.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Simon Phillips, Carter Beauford, Billy Cobham, Will Kennedy, Lenny White and Claus Hessler play open handed.

Just as we play trad because the snare used to be at an angle when marching, we cross because the hi-hat was a pretty late addition to the drumkit.

There's no reason to get too caught up in it. I do a bit of everything for my own reasons. The stuff I play has no need for me being able to play ambidextrously, it just helps me with balance and comfort, evening things out. I practice a lot open handed, but rarely play that way. Fairly traditional in my approach, but I still don't want to be held back by that.

There are no rules anymore. It's just what's practical and works for you.

Open handed can e.g. help playing around the toms while keeping the hi-hat going on a traditional setup. It will also be more natural for you to add more stuff to your left side.

For crossed players there is a connection between the right hand and right foot. There will for most be a slight difference in feel.

I grew up playing openhanded as my older brother is a lefty and they were his drums, but anytime he'd let me set the kit up right handed I immediately felt quicker, and by that I mean it felt easier to play, especially my feet.

Billy Cobham saw Lenny perform and realized its functionality (hands don’t cross over) and retrained in that method.
I wasn't going to say anything but my avatar keeps staring back at me!

I saw a clinic were Billy claimed he switched because the first time he had to share a kit for a live show he was the only lefty on a bill with a bunch of righties and they either wouldn't let him switch or there was no time for it (I can't remember). Regardless he realized it was going to be an ongoing issue, so he set his home kit up right handed.


Senior Member
Did some of those drummers stop playing open handed, or is it just that they play open handed for songs that call for it, and cross over for everything else?


Senior Member
There’s also a Subset of players who will play open handed occasionally for the feel of it

ie Chester Thompson who played turn it on again open handed in concert as it was the only way he felt he could make it groove. Steve smith for don’t stop believin’ etc


Silver Member
There's no reason learning to play open handed should mean you quit playing cross handed. There are phrases, licks, patterns, etc that are uncomfortable or simply impossible with your lead hand crossed over, simply because of where things are positioned, and playing open handed makes these things easier to play. It's a drumming vocabulary multiplier.
When I say I'm an open handed player, what I mean is I incorporate open handed, it doesn't mean I eliminated cross handed.

K Chez

On the heavy side there are a lot of drummers that play open handed or a combo of both. Travis Orbin & Vlad Ulasevich are two off the top of my head but I'm sure some of the metal guys on here can name some more.

Fully agree bud7h4 - another useful skill to have in your toolbox.


Platinum Member
Strange nomenclature so if normally right handed with hats on left and you play it left handed that's open?? So what if right handed and just move the hats to right side -so it would appear open-thats cheating right LOL. So if left handed to play open you have to have hats on right side then play with right hand-well then a left handed player playing a right handed kit would only appear open handed LOL. What if you're ambidextrous? Seems if you played open handed long enough you're a left handed player playing a right handed kit. It isn't just eliminating having to cross hands to hats-it has to be playing a mirror image of usual-right? Once that becomes "usual" then wouldn't returning to old way be "open" compared to last-so I guess you eternally oscillate? I'm "open" to splainin' the situation. P.S. I had to edit this cause I screwed up my left and rights hats initially-drink another cup of coffee Art.
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Senior Member
Strange nomenclature so if normally right handed with hats on left and you play it left handed that's open??
Yes but open-handed playing is a more inclusive term. You could play the hats with your right hand but just have them located somewhere on the kit where the arms aren’t crossed ie right ahead of you.

While some would say the ultimate benefit of open handed playing is uncrossing your arms and strengthening the weaker hand, you don’t need to be playing with the weaker hand for it to be open handed. Many adherents of the technique do it that way though.

Technically whenever you play the ride you are playing open handed drumming.